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Herbert John Rose (1857–1930)

by Malcolm Saunders

This article was published:

Herbert John Rose (1857-1930), Anglican clergyman and army chaplain, was born on 21 June 1857 at Hertford, England, son of John Rose, printer and bookseller, and his wife Elizabeth Mary, née Cooper. He was educated at Hertford Grammar School and King's College, University of London, where in 1880 he won a Wordsworth Latin Prize; next year he received a diploma with first-class honours.

Rose was made deacon in June 1881, ordained priest in June 1882, and in 1881-84 was curate to St John's, Brownswood Park, London. Bishop Alfred Barry asked Rose to accompany him to Australia and be curate at Christ Church, North Sydney, a post which he held from April 1884 to December 1885. From February to June 1885 he served as the Protestant chaplain in the New South Wales contingent to the Sudan; for this he was specially recommended by the Stuart-Dalley government and appointed honorary chaplain to the New South Wales Volunteer Forces.

From December 1885 until his death Rose was rector of St Anne's, Strathfield. He continued to pursue his military career. In January 1900 he was appointed chaplain major in New South Wales's second contingent to South Africa. He served in several capacities, among them as divisional chaplain to Sir John French's cavalry and chaplain to Sir Charles Warren's column in Griqualand West and British Bechuanaland. In November he took a contingent of the sick from Cape Town to England; he returned to Sydney in March 1901. In August 1902 he was appointed chaplain (second class), and lieutenant-colonel, to the Commonwealth Military Forces; by 1908 he was senior chaplain (first class) and colonel. Keeping his rank, he retired from the army on 30 November 1913.

Rose saw his parish grow enormously in numbers and wealth. He did much to persuade his affluent parishioners to build the beautiful St Anne's Church, and the building of St Columba's Church, Flemington, also owed much to his efforts. Rose enjoyed as cordial relations with his congregation as he did with military men. He visited his parishioners on foot, delivered impressive sermons, edited the parish paper and taught scripture weekly at local schools. He reputedly had 'a wonderful way with young men', seeing gym exercises as an essential preliminary to choir practice and encouraging self-defence and boxing. He was immensely proud that so many of the boys who had passed through his choir and bible classes had 'answered the call of duty' during World War I.

Rose had an incisive, energetic manner and a dominating personality. He tried to instil military manners and methods in all those under his tutelage. 'Head erect', one choirboy recalled, 'he marched everywhere'. His pupils, recognizing the warmth and concern beneath the frightening exterior, liked and respected him.

Rose was perhaps more a product of the army than the church, having a hierarchical view of the world. Under Barry's influence he tended to be a Low Churchman, but eventually he earned for St Anne's its reputation as one of the few High churches in Sydney. A staunch defender of the British Empire, he idolized Lord Kitchener. In his parish he mixed with the rich and powerful; in the army he rubbed shoulders with the leading military men of the day. He demanded to be known as rector, and provoked some to view him as 'a dreadful snob'. Yet he was renowned for his hatred of pretence and insincerity. Rose was a man of God but by no means a man of peace. His sermons on war stressed its virtues and minimized its evils: men's characters were fostered by active service but sapped by civilian life; 'all great nations … were born in war, and expired in peace', he was fond of quoting.

On 5 May 1887, at St Luke's, Liverpool, he had married Harriett Ethel Priddle. Their three sons enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force. Captain Bernard won the Distinguished Conduct Medal and the Military Cross and Harold died of pneumonia at Gallipoli. Survived by his wife and four children, Rose died at Strathfield on 24 May 1930. His ashes lie in St Anne's. Bronze tablets at St Anne's and St Columba's were dedicated to his memory.

Select Bibliography

  • Aust Defence Dept, Official Records of the Australian Military Contingents to the War in South Africa, P. L. Murray ed (Melb, 1911)
  • W. Phillips, Defending ‘a Christian Country’ (Brisb, 1981)
  • Sabretache, Jan-Mar 1982
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 26, 27 May 1930
  • Church Standard, 30 May 1930
  • Australian Church Record, 5 June 1930.

Citation details

Malcolm Saunders, 'Rose, Herbert John (1857–1930)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1988, accessed online 21 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (Melbourne University Press), 1988

View the front pages for Volume 11

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


21 June, 1857
Hertford, Hertfordshire, England


24 May, 1930 (aged 72)
Strathfield, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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